George Escher donates famous father’s art to National Gallery

(Above: George Escher, son of artist M.C. Escher, holding a print of one of his father’s drawings, Hand with Reflecting Sphere, from January 1935.  The drawing shows the room that George grew up in in Rome.  Photo by Barry Gray for StittsvilleCentral.ca.)

 

We’re willing to bet you didn’t know the son of a world-famous artist lives in Stittsville.

His name is George Escher and he is kin of iconic Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher. George’s father is the man behind the geometric lithograph called Relativity in which human figures are pictured walking up walls and sitting on ceilings. This perspective-based masterpiece only begins to make sense when you consider the individual and their particular motion.

His father and his work brought George through many places before the eldest of three sons landed in Stittsville 12 years ago.

George was born in Rome, Italy on July 23, 1926. At this time, his father’s art was in its infancy. It wasn’t enough to support the Escher clan which would eventually expand to five members. His father was born into a wealthy family, and they supported him financially until the 1940s.

George, now 89, says his relationship with his dad was an ordinary one.

“He was a very pleasant father to have. He was very self-regulating. He checked the hours, so to speak. He would walk in the woods when he could. He wanted us to be reasonably regulated, too,” he says.

George was about ten years old when Benito Mussolini, Italy’s dictator leading up to World War II, began to spread his fascist ideals in the country. When George’s friends began to wear ballila uniforms associated with Mussolini’s regime, he felt he needed one to fit in.

“We were turned into little fascists in school,” he says. “My parents didn’t like us to participate in that.”

According to his son, M.C. Escher wasn’t a political man, let alone a fanatical fascist. So, to escape Mussolini, the Eschers moved to Switzerland in 1935.

The Italian landscapes around Rome had left an impression on M.C. Escher. In comparison, George says his father was “bored stiff” with the mountainous Swiss landscape. In 1937, the family moved to Belgium but the onset of the war then forced them to quickly relocate. In 1941, they settled into Baarn in the Netherlands because George’s extended family lived there. This region had been occupied by the Nazis since May of 1940.

George says, despite authoritarian occupation of the country, that there was very little German influence around Baarn. It was his life in the Netherlands that formed his identity.

“I must say those four or five years are what made me Dutch,” he says of feeling united by wartime.

By 1958, George had married his wife Corrie. It was this year when they decided to move to Montreal where he worked as a mechanical engineer. When the company employing him went bankrupt, they moved to Mahone Bay, N.S. They remained there for three and a half decades. Fourteen years after his arrival in Canada, his father passed away in his Dutch home at the age of 73.

Roughly 18 years after George’s retirement, he and Corrie moved to Stittsville more out of necessity than choice. His wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 72 and they were convinced by their daughter Juliet to move to Ottawa for better treatment options. Corrie lived in Stittsville for roughly a year and a half before being transferred to a specialized facility. She passed away in 2005 at the age of 80.

George now lives by himself in a bungalow overlooking the Amberwood golf course. He says that’s the only thing he would change about Stittsville.

“At the moment my house is too big,” he says with a chuckle. “I have to get out of it.”

George appreciates the “quiet, rural environment” of the town, but that his father wouldn’t.

“Well, he lived in Italy in and other countries, and then he settled in Baarn where he was in the middle of the woods,” he says.

Though he would probably turn his nose up at the city, a piece of M.C. Escher has been on display at the National Gallery of Canada in downtown Ottawa since December 20, 2014. The art exhibit, titled M.C. Escher: The Mathemagician, is being shown until Sunday, May 3.

George donated his inherited portion of his father’s collection to the gallery. He says he doesn’t have a favourite.

“They all have their own twist that I enjoy.”

M.C. Escher Hand with Reflecting Sphere, January 1935 lithograph on silver coated wove paper. Photographed by Barry Gray.
M.C. Escher
Hand with Reflecting Sphere, January 1935
lithograph on silver coated wove paper. Photographed by Barry Gray.

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3 thoughts on “George Escher donates famous father’s art to National Gallery”

  1. George Escher,thank you for sharing your artwork with the gallery and Canada. I love your father’s artwork and have gone three times to see the latest display. I was fascinated to read that you lived in the East Coast, but even more so that you are in the Ottawa area. Thanks for sharing your father’s work and your family’s life story.

  2. Thank Mr. Escher for sharing your father’s works with the world, and also for sharing your stories of your life together. So many famous artists are remote from us, they lived in a different time, a different place, and if we know anything about their lives it is third-hand. I love the mystery and the play and the conundrums of your father’s works, the logical and the impossible and the marvellous.

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